HHS delays deadline to approve plans sold on federal exchanges

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has delayed another part of the health insurance exchange. This time, the agency has pushed back the deadline for when it will issue final approval for health plans sold through the federally-run marketplaces.

HHS told insurers Tuesday it won't sign agreements for the plans until the middle of next month. Originally, it was going to make final approvals between Sept. 5 and Sept. 9, Reuters reported.

Each plan sold on an exchange must meet certain requirements, including providing essential health benefits, and insurers must sign a special agreement with HHS before they can sell those plans, reported The Hill's Healthwatch.

The one- to two-week delay in approving plans will provide HHS with "additional flexibility and time to handle technical requests," HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters told Reuters. She added that despite the pushback, the agency is still "on track to open" exchanges on time on Oct. 1.

And despite receiving some criticism from Republican lawmakers, a former HHS official told Reuters that "having everything ready on October 1 is not a critical issue. What matters to people is January 1, which is when the coverage is supposed to start. If that were delayed, it would be a substantive setback."

Last month, FierceHealthIT reported legislation introduced by Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) calls for a one-year delay in the launch of the controversial data hub that will connect exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act with federal agencies.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article
- see The Hill's Healthwatch article